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FACTDROP: When Reagan called Gaddafi a "mad dog": Lessons from the Cold War


When Reagan called Gaddafi a "mad dog": Lessons from the Cold War

Qaddafi and his country are described with different colors depending on which narration is used at the time. During the Cold War Libya was listed in the "terrorist nations" while Qaddafi was described as a "mad dog". After the 11/9 the Bush administration welcomed Qaddafi as an ally to the "War on Terror". The EU changed subsequently attitude and president Sarkojy offered Qaddafi a lot of money and weapons to achieve the formation of his Mediterranean Union. Qaddafi became a LSE benefactor. US inaugurated a new policy in Africa with the NAPEO programme. The British released the Lockerbie bomber gaining access to the Libyan oil. But in the post - "Arab Spring" era Qaddafi became an inhuman cruel dictator depicted as a Human Rights enemy.

While the war in Libya under the "United Protector" operation is going on it's the right time for a flashback.
April 1986.

Although buffeted by problems ranging from Cold War issues with Moscow and Nicaragua, the ballooning budget deficit, taxes and oil prices, Reagan's attention was diverted by attacks on an American airliner over Greece and the bombing at a West Berlin discotheque frequented by American soldiers.President Ronald Reagan during a press conference commended on Libya and Qaddafi calling him a "mad dog":

"Q. Mr. President, I know you must have given it a lot of thought, but what do you think is the real reason that Americans are the prime target of terrorism? Could it be our policies?"

"The President. Well, we know that this mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution, Moslem fundamentalist revolution, which is targeted on many of his own Arab compatriots. And where we figure in that, I don't know. Maybe we're just the enemy because—it's a little like climbing Mount Everest—because we're here. But there's no question but that he has singled us out more and more for attack, and we're aware of that. As I say, we're gathering evidence as fast as we can".

Western relations with Libya had been cooling since the arrival of the Reagan administration in the United States in January 1981. On May, the United States closed the Libyan "People's Bureau" (embassy) in Washington and expelled the entire staff in response to conduct "generally violating internationally accepted standards of diplomatic behavior," after Gaddafi was heard talking about ordering the assassination of the new American president. In August 1981, two Libyan jets fired on U.S. aircraft participating in a routine naval exercise in the Gulf of Sidra.. The American planes, returning fire downed both Libyan attackers. On December 11. 1981, the State Department invalidated all U.S. passports for travel to Libya, effectively a total travel ban. and advised all Americans to leave the country. The following March, the government prohibited imports of Libyan crude into the United States and launched an extensive trade boycott. The tension peaked resulting to the "Operation El Dorado Canyon" and the bombing of Bab al-Azizia compound. Qaddafi managed to escape the last second warned by the president of Malta and the Italian politician Bettino Craxi.
But thats far from being the whole story. In 1983, Mr. Edwin Wilson, a CIA agent, was convicted among other things for selling 22 tons of C-4 explosives to the "mad dog", the United States' largest illegal arms trading case up to that time. The quantity of this powerful material was equal to the entire US domestic stockpile. Wilson working for CIA used to run shipping companies secretly owned by the agency. Posing as a businessman he worked through the Nugan Hand Bank created with secret funds made by narcotics and arms smugglers and large deposits from the CIA . He arranged several clandestine CIA arms shipments to Angola, Laos, Indonesia and Congo. In 1971, he quit the CIA to run shipping companies for a secret Navy intelligence organization called Task Force 157. He again used companies, including one called Consultants
International, to mask his intelligence gathering abroad.

Lets get some input from the following Nightline broadcast of November 1981 where the question asked was "Is The U.S. Running A War In Libya?".

Despite the strict sanctions regime that was placed against Libya by the Administration Wilson smuggled in to the country military uniforms, guns - including more than a thousand M16 rifles -and recruited a group of Green Berets to train Libyan military and intelligence officers. One cell trained by Wilson was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine under the command of a former Syrian officer who was suspected of being behind the Lockerbie bombing. Furthermore a gun that he arranged to be delievered to the Libyan embassy in Bonn was used to the assassination of a prominent dissident while one of the Green Berets assassinated another dissident in Colorado.

By that time the New York Times reported:

"Qaddafi obviously has utilized the materials and expertise of Wilson and Terpil in his support of such terrorist groups as the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Red Brigades of Italy, the Red Army of Japan, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany and the Irish Republican Army. He is suspected of having ordered the murder of at least 10 political enemies in Europe and the Middle East; two months ago, the F.B.I. arrested Eugene A. Tafoya of New Mexico, a former Green Beret, and accused him of an attempted assassination of a Libyan student at Colorado State University. The Libyan was one of a growing number outside the country who oppose Qaddafi’s rule. When arrested, Tafoya, who traveled to Libya three times last year, had Ed Wilson’s business card in his possession with telephone and telex listings in Tripoli, London and Washington for one of Wilson’s Swiss-based companies. Tafoya’s links to Wilson are still being investigated."

Wilson was finally convicted in 1984 for gunrunning, selling the C4 explosives and conspiring to kill prosecutors, six of the witnesses plus his ex - wife and sentenced to 52 years of prison being at age of 55. The last accusation came up from a fellow prisoner who was never questioned by anyone outside the CIA. The prisoner going to the authorities reported his intentions so they set Wilson up with an undercover agent. The agent taped Wilson hiring him to kill the prosecutors, six witnesses and his ex-wife. Nevertheless, the voice in the recording was never solidly identified as Wilson's.

The detained in Cuba Frank Terpil, a former agent was accused as an accomplish, while other names were involved in the case like Ted Shackley the "Blond Ghost". Shackley had run the Miami station known as JM-WAVE, targeting Fidel Castro in the early 1960s, and had been a key planner in the Bay of Pigs invasion. He was also directly involved in CIA attempts on Castro's life in concert with the Mafia. In the mid-sixties he had been the Chief of Station (COS) in Laos, running the largest covert operation in CIA history - a secret war intimately tied with opium and heroin smuggling and the abandonment of large numbers of American POWs. Additionally he was involved in the overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende and the downfall of the Shah of Iran. Wilson had claimed that on the first place went to Libya under his commands to keep an eye on Carlos the Jackal, the infamous terrorist.

Contrary to his claims - concerning the Libya case - that he was working at the behest of the CIA that knew about and approved of his arms trading as a way for him to cultivate and maintain information contacts valuable to the agency, the records from CIA and the Navy proved that Wilson had stopped working for them since 1971 and 1976 respectively and so evidently they were not connected to his affairs in Libya. Charles A. Briggs, the third highest-ranking official at the Central Intelligence Agency, signed a declaration stating that: "According to CIA records, with one exception while he was employed by Naval Intelligence in 1972, Mr. Edwin P. Wilson was not asked or requested, directly or indirectly, to perform or provide any services, directly or indirectly, for CIA." Despite that the CIA attorneys stated to Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Ted Greenberg that the Brigg's affidavit should not be admitted into evidence requesting that not be introduced the prosecutor decided to use it. After deliberating for one day, the jury asked the judge to re-read the Briggs affidavit to them. An hour after the re-reading, the jury found Wilson guilty.

Placed in solitary confinement. in the notoriously harsh federal prison in Marion, Illinois, and registered officially as a traitor, Wilson bombarded the CIA and the Justice Department with Freedom of Information Act requests, demanding documents about himself. The feds balked but he sued and won.

Wilson sent U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes a Department of Justice "Duty To Disclose Possible False Testimony" memorandum he had obtained through the FOIA. The uncontested CIA follow-up memorandum addressed to then Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark Richard in a handwritten note concluded: “Plain meaning of services —> The affid. is inaccurate.” Judge Hughes subsequently appointed Houston lawyer David Adler, a former CIA agent, to represent Wilson. Adler diligently aided Wilson in the search for additional documents concealed by Wilson’s prosecutors. In some cases Adler had to travel to Washington D.C. and examine classified documents inside of a vault. Wilson and Adler’s investigation resulted in the identification of at least 17 current and former federal officials who concealed their knowledge of the affidavit’s falseness

After the wreckage of his relations with his wife, his two sons and the loss of his estate, with the help of his lawyer he managed to find in huge stacks of paper proofs for more than 80 contacts between the CIA and himself during his arms-dealing days: Shackley asked Wilson to acquire a Soviet missile, and to find a retirement home for a Laotian general who'd worked for the CIA. Another CIA official twice asked Wilson to supply anti-tank weapons for "a sensitive agency operation." The agency proposed using Wilson to secretly sell desalinization plants to Egypt and the list goes on...

In 1999 Adler filed a motion to overturn Wilson's conviction because "the guilty verdict was obtained through the government's knowing use of false evidence." Judge Hughes, threw out Wilson's conviction, denouncing the government's "fabrication of evidence." If the jurors had known about Wilson's 80 CIA contacts, Hughes wrote in a scathing 29-page decision, they "very likely would have believed Wilson's theory and acquitted him." The DOJ admitted that the affidavit was false but that was not a proof that Wilson acted under the authorization of CIA when sold the C4 to Qaddafi. By the day that Hughes issued his decision the CIA's spokesman Mark Mansfield released a terse statement on Wilson: "The CIA didn't authorize or play any role whatsoever in his decision to sell arms to Libya. That decision was his, and that is why he went to jail."

The CIA eventually provided the U.S. Department of Justice with a report detailing that Edwin Wilson was known to have had nearly 100 contacts with CIA officials after he officially left the agency and that he was a valuable source of information for the agency. Among other things, Wilson uncovered a plot to assassinate President Reagan.

On October of 2003, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes finally declared: “Because the government knowingly used false evidence against him and suppressed favorable evidence, his conviction will be vacated.” In his 24 page opinion outlined the prosecution’s failure to turn over the exculpatory documentation of Wilson’s many post-retirement CIA contacts that would have proven Briggs’ affidavit was perjured "It alone lied. It alone possessed - and withheld - the information that documented the falsehoods. The government alone insisted on the affidavit rather than production of the underlying records. It alone had the underlying documents.".... "In the course of American justice, one would have to work hard to conceive of a more fundamentally unfair process." Wilson was released from prison on September 14, 2004, after being incarcerated for 27 years.
"It's really strange but I'm not bitter," he says. "It's just one of those lousy things you get hit by in life. I never look back. I look forward. It's been a terrible waste of time but there's no profit in being bitter. There's no profit in feeling sorry for yourself."

Wilson filed a lawsuit with the names of eight persons including five former assistant U.S. attorneys: Stephen Trott, later a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; D. Lowell Jensen, later a federal judge in California; James Powers, retired; Mark Richard, who later worked for the Justice Department; Theodore Greenberg, who became a senior counsel for the World Bank and the ex-CIA official Briggs. On 29 March 2007, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal dismissed his case on the ground that all eight had immunity covering their actions.

Wilson was released from prison on September 14, 2004, after being incarcerated for 27 years and died on September 10, 2012 at 84.

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